|Reason for hearing
Violation of Rule 4.17: Sexual Practices and Obscenity- March 10, 2015- At approximately 7:20pm an undercover detective of the Vice Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department entered the establishment. While at the establishment Det Gatto engaged a dancer, later identified as Michelle Schwartz, in conversation. During their conversation Ms. Schwartz solicited Det. Gatto to engage in sexual acts in exchange for U.S.currency. Once the agreement was made, Bar Manager Terri Broseker, engaged Det. Gatto in conversation informing him that the cost of the sexual acts would be $170.00 and that he could use the basement area to engage in the sexual activity with Ms. Schwartz. Det. Gatto agreed to the conditions of the agreement and informed both parties that he would leave the establishment so that he could obtain the necessary fund to pay for services.
Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct- March 10, 2015/January 8, 2015- At approximately 8:00 pm the Baltimore City Police Department executed a Search and Seizure warrant at the establishment The probable cause for the execution of the search warrant was based on a controlled purchase of illegal narcotic drugs at the establishment from a Mr. Andre Campbell, who was working as a bouncer at the establishment at time of purchase. On the date of the execution of the search warrant Mr. Andre Campbell was present and working at the establishment and was taken into custody and charged. On April15, 2015 Mr. Campbell was convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance and Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance in regards to the prior controlled purchase which occurred on January 8, 2015.
Violation of Adult Entertainment Rule 9: Codes Compliance – March 10, 2015/January 8, 2015- On March 10, 2015, at approximately 7:20pm an undercover detective of the Vice Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department entered the establishment While at the establishment Det. Gatto engaged a dancer, later identified as Michelle Schwartz, in conversation. During their conversation Ms. Schwartz solicited Det Gatto to engage in sexual acts in exchange for U.S. currency. At approximately 8:00 pm the Baltimore City Police Department executed a Search and Seizure warrant at the establishment on that same date. The probable cause for the execution of the search warrant was based on a controlled purchase of illegal narcotic drugs at the establishment from a Mr. Andre Campbell, who was working as a bouncer at the establishment at time of purchase. On the date of the execution of the search warrant Mr. Andre Campbell was present and working at the establishment and was taken into custody and charged. On April 15, 2015 Mr. Campbell was convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance and Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance in regards to the prior controlled purchase which occurred on january 8, 2015.
A Baltimore City narcotics detective testified that, on January 8, a fellow sergeant in the narcotics unit was doing an undercover investigation of the club. The case documents refer to this undercover sergeant as Officer #49. Mr. Kodenski, for his clients, the licensees, objected to the testimony of the officer, because he was not present to be cross-examined. The detective testified that he and Officer #49 met an individual at Lust, a club nearby, who told them that the owner of Club Circus sold cocaine. This unnamed individual brought the undercover officers to Circus, where they spoke with Mr. Blackwell, Circus’s door man. Mr. Blackwell said that he would be the one to make the sale, because the owner of Circus only deals with people that he knows personally. The two detectives were asked to leave Circus by the bartender, but Mr. Blackwell stood directly outside the door with the undercover detectives and agreed to go make the transaction on their behalf. Mr. Blackwell went inside the club with the detectives’ money and returned with three small ziplock bags of white powder, handing them to Officer #49. The bags were chemically analyzed by the Baltimore City police department and found to contain cocaine. After he was arrested and charged, Andre Blackwell pled guilty to possession and distribution of cocaine for this incident.
Mr. Kodenski objected to the testimony, because the Board staff that wrote up the charges in the docket had said that the offense was committed by Andre Campbell, not Andre Blackwell. Ms. Bailey-Hedgepeth said that that was a mistake.
Baltimore City Vice Unit Detective Abraham Gatto testified that, on March 10, he went into the bar, sat down, and ordered a drink from the bartender. One of the dancers approached Gatto, and he bought her a drink. She asked Gatto what type of fun he was looking to have, and the two of them agreed that they would have sex. The dancer called the bartender over and told her that Gatto wanted to go downstairs to a private room. The bartender told Gatto that it would cost him $170 to rent the room, and the dancer would get a $50 tip. There were condoms behind the bar. Gatto kept drinking at the bar for a while; the bartender then came over to Gatto and told him that she was getting off her shift, so he needed to pay for the room now, so that she would get her cut. Gatto was trying to stall, because he knew that some officers would be coming in to execute the warrant for the drug charge from January 8. The bartender reminded Gatto again about the money, and he told her that he would go out and get it from his car. At this point, the officers executing the warrant arrived.
On cross-examination, Kodenski asked whether Gatto had intended to give the bartender or the dancer $170. Gatto said no. Kodenski asked whether Gatto agreed to have sex in exchange for money. Gatto replied, “I asked for it!” He never went downstairs, and he did not arrest the dancer, though he had a criminal summons issued to her home address. Kodenski asked whether the dancer was prosecuted; Gatto replied that she was given the option of a diversion program, which she did not complete, and he just received a court summons to testify in her trial. Kodenski disagreed with this and said that the dancer had not been prosecuted, according to Maryland Judiciary Case Search.
Mr. Kodenski asked that the case be dismissed, because the rule, according to him, requires that the police officer prove that the licensees knew that their employees were soliciting patrons for prostitution. The Board did not agree with him and denied his request as to the violation of Rule 4.17.
The licensees testified next. Ms. Dolores Reicher said that she has been a licensee for 18 years, and she never allows her employees to solicit for prostitution. If she finds out about any illegal activity, said Reicher, she fires the employee(s) immediately. Mr. Jules Gordon testified next that he has also been an owner of the Circus for 18 years, and he tells his dancers, “your job is to dance, make drinks, and that’s it.” Gordon, who is not a licensee, said that he’s improved The Block, adding lights to the alley. He works with the Baltimore City Health Department to give out condoms and do needle exchanges. He testified that Mr. Blackwell did work for him as a door man who ran “little errands.” Gordon fired Mr. Blackwell when he heard about the drug charge, and he said that he didn’t know what Blackwell was talking about when he told the officers that the “owner” of the Circus was selling cocaine. Gordon said that he himself was the owner of Circus, though he’s not on the license. Mr. Gordon is not a licensee at this club, because he owned a different bar that “burned down when the peep show caught on fire,” and BD-7 tavern licensees can only be on one license in Baltimore City.
When asked why a bar whose employees do not solicit for prostitution would need the Health Department to distribute condoms, Mr. Gordon replied, “for the customers, to practice safe sex.” Then he corrected himself and said that he throws away the condoms, since his customers don’t need them. Ms. Reicher confirms that they often throw away “hundreds of bags of nothing but condoms.”
Concluding the case, Mr. Kodenski argued that the charges were duplicative and said, “you can’t recharge for the same case.” He said, “for God’s sake, we’re in adult entertainment; we’re not going to Disney,” adding “everything happens, but you don’t lay it at the foot of the licensee.”